Place of Origin: Lima, Peru
When and why did you come to America?
“When? Uh… Lets see… 1980, March 1980 I came to the US [At 20 years old]. Why? To pursue a better future. Like most immigrants do. I came with my whole family, my brothers, my mother, and father. My parents decided to emigrate from Peru to the US.”
What kind of struggles, if any, did you face when you first moved here?
“Language. The language was the main barrier, at the beginning, and uh… it was difficult in the beginning, of course, like for everyone else. To learn English, understand it, and speak it. In Peru they teach you English in the school system, but it was very basic. Like the alphabet and that’s it. So when I came here, I realized that I didn’t know any English. So I took ESL courses, English as a Second Language, for a year and in the meantime I was practically going into college. Luckily for me they took me a year after I came into the US. So I started going to college, NJIT, but I didn’t know a lot of English and It was a little bit of a struggle in the beginning, trying to perform well in engineering and then at the same time struggling with the language. But you manage.”
What do you miss the most about Peru?
“At the beginning it was friends, cousins, but once you get used to living here you make friends and you meet other people. Then that’s it. You don’t really miss it that much. Well, I don’t miss it that much.”
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned since moving here?
“Well, one thing is for sure. There is no other country like the United States. It’s all up to the individual to get ahead or to stay at the bottom. I stood at the bottom, to be honest, but you fight, you work hard, and you stay focused on what you want to do and where you want to go. And luckily for me, I managed to get ahead. So that’s a big lesson for me, it’s all up to you to get ahead, contrary to other countries where it’s harder.”
Do you keep in touch with your roots? Are there certain things you do, like follow traditions?
“I do keep some tradition, my mother just came back from Peru and she brought some goodies from Peru, which I like, but other than that… I do keep some traditions, in Peru on midnight on New Years, you grab 12 grapes, 1 for every month, and you eat them quick. It’s supposed to be good fortune. All the people run around with a piece of luggage, it’s supposed to bring you luck so you can travel the world. I don’t follow that tradition, I just eat the grapes.”
How would you feel if your son moved to Peru?
“He wouldn’t make it. He could not make it. If he wanted to move, I would feel fine, hey that’s his choice, but I know that he’s too used to the United States. It’s all a matter of adapting. I know some people who come here when they’re older and then they go back. But I’m not like that, I’m too used to the United States, I adapted already. But, you know, it varies.”
So what do you identify yourself as?
“Well… I identify myself as both, to be honest, I like the culture that Peru, that I learned in Peru, a lot of history and I’m proud of that. But at the same time I’m thankful to the United States, because this is where I’m getting my opportunity to get ahead, which I didn’t have in Peru, I mean I was going to college in Peru, don’t take me wrong, but the opportunity to get a job over there are very slim. And back then, you also had terrorism, so it would’ve been a lot harder for me to get to where I am now. So in that sense, I am very thankful to the United States.”